One of the Great Myths of Obama was that he was going to heal race relations. He was post-racial. He was transformative. Just his, you know, essence would make the world heal. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Heaven on Earth – EVERYTHING became about race. EVERYTHING became racist. And Obama showed himself to be perhaps the most divisive president in our lives.
But the thing is – EVERYone knows it’s not cool to be racist. Even racists know to watch their speech unless they’re among “friends”! (Of course, “racist” now means uttering a fact about Obama, not supporting Obama, giving a valid criticism of Obama…..)
So I want to know – why is it still okay for sexism to permeate our language?
I think people have different opinions on the importance of the sexism in our language, or whether it IS sexism – but, oh gosh, for ME this is a HUGE pet peeve! Kind of the rock in my rucksack! What am I talking about?
- Crying like a little girl
- men calling each other “b*tch” rather than “b*stard” (when the latter isn’t “good enough”, refer to them as a woman, that’ll REALLY insult them!)
- “b*tchslap” (what, “slap” isn’t explanatory enough?)
- he (even SHE) needs to grow a pair (women can’t be strong or resolute?)
- referring to women as “girls” when we don’t refer to men as “boys”
- and many more heard daily
I think my “favorite” is people admonishing men or little boys not to “cry like a little girl”. Hmmm, they’re born with tear ducts, they really ARE human beings with emotions, and they ARE male. And they’re crying. So – excuse me, but aren’t they “crying like a little BOY”?????? Look at the adorable little boy in this video – yes, it’s entitled “crying like a little girl”. *I* watched the video. Sure looks to ME like he’s crying like a little BOY!!
I mean, if we have to shame little kids into not expressing their emotions, can’t we do it by encouraging them to act more grown up? Why must we encourage them not to be like little girls, especially when they’re actually being little boys???
When I was looking around for some things to spice up my RANT!, I found this essay written last year on Feministing. In her essay, the author describes a scene she had recently witnessed in which a mother was trying to get her young son to stop crying:
She didn’t have the patience (or maybe the tools) to kneel down and talk her son out of crying before they went into the event. So she took out weapons she knew would work. “Are you going to go in there crying like a little girl?” And the Patriarchal lesson is learned: Girls are weak. Crying is weak. Don’t be weak. Like a girl.
It happens all the time in our society; shaming little boys into a masculinity that rejects emotion. It’s called Patriarchy; where sexism becomes systematic.
She also addresses the long-lasting effect on males of being shamed into not having anything as feminine as emotions:
If you don’t want your kid 35 and in therapy because he’s buried his emotions, or worse, to turn to violence because he doesn’t have linguistic tools/comfortable spaces to express himself, please don’t say this phrase (or anything like it) to your child. Over and over again, boys who aren’t given these tools and spaces grow up to be really uncomfortable men who then enforce the same behaviors in their own children. Give your boy a safe space to explore his emotions and find ways to verbalize them. It’s the best gift you could ever give to your little boy because once he enters school and the shaming begins, the burying begins too. But if he’s well prepared he’ll have a much better sense of self and will be able to navigate his way through the inevitable flood of Patriarchy.
I totally agree with her. The point is that HUMANS have emotions – and’s that okay! Really, why is it so wrong for a kid to cry? In the moment, I imagine it’s usually nothing more than inconvenient for the parent. Crying is kind of a “kid thing” – I mean, they come INTO the world doing it! We want them to learn to tolerate frustration, and to learn the appropriate situations and ways in which to express their emotions – but that’s a learning process, and the fact that they have emotions is not a crime.
Except that it’s “feminine” – so our world says. And feminine is second-class, weak, “less than” masculine. The devaluing of what we have constructed as “feminine” is at the heart of sexism, and it’s reflected in so much of our language. As a matter of fact, it’s SO prevalent in our language, that most people never even notice it. And as the example used in the feministing essay shows, it’s so strong, that women/moms perpetuate their own devaluing!
I truly feel that if we want to end sexism and misogyny, we need to strongly address its insidious presence in our language. And for heaven’s sake, if a little boy is crying – let’s be conscious enough to notice that he’s crying like a little BOY!
It’s wonderful that we have reached a place where as a society we realize that it’s important not to treat 12% of the population as second class. I wonder what it’s going to take before it becomes important not to treat the majority as second class, including in our language?
…..but you know, now that I think about it, it’s probably racist to bring up sexism!
(Unless it might get Obama some votes!)
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